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There are a lot of people all over the world working tirelessly around the clock to make money by taking it from others.
Scammers count on people being “nice.” It is always alright to hang up on a caller or to reject a call from an unknown number. Emails do not require a response and neither do voicemail messages. When someone knocks on the door it is easier to ignore it than to answer.
Last week one of my clients hung up on a closer who called her and asked for information. Before she hung up she told him to call her Realtor but did not give him a name or contact information.
At last, someone listened to me when I gave my standard lecture about fraud. I think it is wonderful that she was able to just hang up on the caller when it didn’t sound right to her. At some point, she will need to supply the title company with her Social Security number and banking information, too.
I verified that the call and the caller were legitimate and then gave my client the phone number and asked her to call the closer. I also told her that she did the right thing.
It’s easy for scammers to take advantage of your clients
A couple of years ago someone called one of our clients a few days before her closing and gave her wiring instructions over the phone. She wired her money to a thief three days before the closing — and never got it back.
The money was never recovered. The buyer had been told about wire fraud ahead of time but it never occurred to her that someone would call her and talk her through sending money.
Most real estate professionals do not share information about scams with other agents. No one wants to admit they were tricked.
Often people believe that when someone calls they have to be ”nice.” However, hanging up or not answering is always an appropriate response to a suspicious phone call.
Let your clients know what to watch for
Please alert your clients to wire fraud scams. The message at the end of your email is not enough.
According to NAR, real estate wire fraud continues to be one of the most prevalent cybercrimes in the U.S. About 13,638 people were victims of wire fraud in the real estate and rental sector in 2020 (a 17 percent increase over 2019) with losses of more than $213 million, according to FBI data.
As a small business owner, I am the target of every kind of scam there is. Small businesses are targeted because on average the scammers can get more money from them.
I get urgent invoices for office supplies and if I have any questions I can click a link or call a phone number. It is part of a phishing scheme.
There are also the usual real estate-related emails from the wealthy widows and children of very wealthy princes or kings. They are looking for someone to help them get millions of dollars out of their country by wiring it to me.
Fake notices from Amazon with information about purchases that I never made are common. They look real enough until I scroll over the email address.
Beware the buyer text message scam
Last year we were getting a lot of text messages from people who wanted to buy the house.
The way that I handle these is to report them as spam and block the number. Some text messages offer the option of replying with “stop” to opt-out. I never send any kind of reply. Some of the messages are from legitimate businesses that buy real estate, but I am not obligated to sort them out.
Recently someone posing as me but with a different email address tried to get my banking information changed so that when I send an invoice the payment would go into a scammer’s bank account instead of into mine.
Artificial intelligence is going to revolutionize scams, just like the telephone and the internet did. Fraudsters will be able to take samples of a voice and create fake voice messages with it. Instead of calling and posing as a grandson who needs some money, they will be able to fake the voice of an actual grandson.
We have to get used to the idea that we can no longer believe or trust anything we hear or read and only some of what we see. Deep fake videos have been around for a while and we have all seen the memes on social media with realistic pictures that are fake.
A major real estate franchise had a data breach in 2017 and my Social Security number was exposed. Real estate companies and past employers sometimes keep the information of former employees and contractors forever just in case, there isn’t anything we can do about it. That is why it is a good idea to contact each credit bureau today and have your credit frozen so that it is harder for thieves to open new accounts in your name.
At this point, we can’t even imagine how AI will be used to steal and extort. We can do our best to keep up with scams by visiting the Federal Trade Commission website or AARP.com.
If you are a Realtor you may want to learn what your responsibilities and liability might be when it comes to client data or information. NAR has a data privacy and security tool kit The real estate industry is a target for scammers of every type.
In general, locks on doors, passwords and two-factor authentication are our friends. Do not re-use passwords and keep installing those computer updates and security patches. Never click on a link in an email or text message.
Above all, be careful out there and take extreme care of client data. If you feel safe or aren’t concerned about fraud, you are not paying attention.
Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is also the founder of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com.